I had to blink a few times when I first entered Katonah Yoga. It’s so white and modern and light and airy…well, downright beautiful. But totally different than what you might expect to find at a yoga studio. Which makes sense, since Katonah Yoga takes a very different approach. For starters, you’re probably doing it wrong. What I have come to learn as a down dog was not seen as a down dog at Katonah. Moments after I got into the pose my instructor, Melissa von Ludwig came up behind me with a strap and lifted my hips up higher than I ever thought they could go.
Melissa circled her way around the room during the entirety of the 90-minute class, helping everyone get deeper into the perfect pose. Class was very, very hands on. Throughout class, the more experienced students would help the newbies like me. Normally, I would balk at the thought of a total stranger assisting me with a backbend but it seemed perfectly normal. To be honest, I couldn’t wait to come back.
I grabbed Melissa after class to chat about what I had just experienced and fired off a series of questions about her own journey to finding Katonah Yoga. Pretty fascinating stuff (if I do say so myself):
My first taste of yoga was in 1998 when I was an undergraduate at the School of Visual Arts. It was a kundalini class I was taking for credit and it was unlike anything I had ever done and something deep inside of me wanted more. Over the years I explored different styles and methods but it wasn’t until I found Nevine Michaan and Abbie Galvin where I finally found the information I craved to teach.
I was always skeptical of other yoga practices until I found Katonah where ALL the information these 2 ladies teach measure up and makes sense. There’s no mystic “woo woo” talk, it’s both esoteric and pragmatic to help the practitioner move beyond their current frame of reference so they can be a well adjusted individual in the real world (off the mat), with good boundaries, good technique, good form, good contacts, to participate well in the community and to have great relationships.
How would you describe Katonah compared to other practices?
That’s a big one. An easy way to differentiate Katonah from all other styles out there is the practice is not Hindu-based but rather Taoism-influenced. There are no mentions of chakras and very little use of Sanskrit but rather looking at a students form to know how well their organs and glands are functioning underneath. Whatever is happening in the body IS happening in the mind. As my teachers like to say, “There is no mind body connection, the body IS the material of the mind.”
How would you describe your personal teaching style?
I suppose the most important aspect of teaching is to teach people where they are in time and space. All yoga is therapeutic and a truly therapeutic practice is counterintuitive. If one knew it, they would already do it. To help define, refine, reform and transform individuals structure is really the magic of Katonah. The practice is very hands on as one does not know yet where they can travel without an assist. Sometimes, it takes several people to help an individual get out of their way.
What has been your proudest moment teaching?
Helping someone out of pain by knowing how all bodies are meant to be in time and space. Everyone is off in one way or another but everyone is correct the same way.
What advice do you have for those struggling to hit that perfect pose (like me!)?
We all strive for the archetype of a pose as the beauty of a perfect pose holds the magic. A personal version of a pose holds in someone’s damage. The best advice is keeping coming to class.
And keep coming to class I will! Won’t you join me?
This post was written by Simona Sudit, Director of Studio Happiness at ClassPass. She can be found in workout attire at all times (because when you work for ClassPass, you never know when you may get pulled into a class!). If you spot her in class, say hi. She’ll be the girl cracking jokes the whole time. She’s “that girl.”